By Lisa Ferdinando
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
SYDNEY, Feb. 24, 2015 – Strategic and tactical gains by coalition partners have made a difference in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
"I think that ISIL is in a difficult position; we just have to make sure it stays that way," Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said at a media roundtable.
Dempsey spoke as he wrapped up a visit here that focused on the U.S. rebalance to the Pacific and strengthening military cooperation with Australia, which has been a key partner in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Efforts Have 'Blunted and Reversed' ISIL Momentum
ISIL aspires to spread its radical ideology across the Middle East and to establish a government that is exclusive to its particular beliefs, Dempsey said. The terrorists would need to keep up momentum to convince people to adopt this ideology, he added.
"On that basis, we have strategically made progress against ISIL,” he said. “In other words, we have blunted and reversed the momentum that they were making in Iraq and in Syria."
Coalition partners in the region "now feel ownership for this security challenge," the chairman said. They have a greater stake in the fight, he added, and are expected to take the lead in the efforts, with military support from the United States.
"Strategically, we're about where I expected we would be," Dempsey said. "Tactically, we've also made progress, but progress tactically will always be challenged because of some of their tactics, whether it's suicide bombers or vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices."
The way to continue to make gains is to maintain the strength of coalition and advance the nine lines of efforts in the campaign, including counter-financing, counter-foreign fighters, counter-messaging and reconstruction. It will take time, Dempsey said.
ISIL will be defeated if those nine lines of effort are "applied and are synchronized and integrated with each other," he said.
Concern About Ukraine, 'Fragile' Cease-fire
The top U.S. military officer expressed concern about the situation in Ukraine. "The cease-fire does appear to be threatened by continued action on the part of separatists," he said, noting that there is not enough evidence yet that heavy weapons are being withdrawn.
"Certainly, I think all of us have been concerned about this issue and expected there would be moments where the cease-fire would once again be fragile -- and it's fragile," he said.
The military, the general said, is working on how to best follow through after the Congress approved providing defensive assistance to the Ukraine.
"We're providing options and entering into a consultation within our government about how and when, if that were to occur," Dempsey said. "Those decisions have not been made yet."
U.S. Military Focuses on Pacific
The centerpiece of Dempsey's Australian visit was a day-long strategy session yesterday with Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, chief of the Australian Defense Force.
"Australia has such an important role in the region," Dempsey said. "They've been an incredible partner globally."
The strategy session, which included their senior staff, examined ways to deepen military cooperation and increase interoperability. Because of the close relationship between the United States and Australia, discussions were able to be candid and open, the general said.
The meeting also included a look toward how the Australian Defense Force will focus regionally and globally in the future, Dempsey said. "We certainly encourage Australia to maintain a global perspective while recognizing their regional importance that they bring to the region," he added.
The trip also highlighted the U.S. military's rebalance to the Pacific. Dempsey said that strategy is "delivering on its promise," with greater cooperation, military exercises and discussions.
"In the context of our own strategy of rebalance, we are working with our closest allies in the region to make sure that we can not only continue to work together but enhance our ability to do so," he said.